5. Carbon

Carbon in the Biosphere

2012-09-13. Parking Lot Science: Is Black Best? | by Julie Chao, Berkeley Lab Newsletter. Excerpt:  …when it seems like you could fry an egg on the pavement …it’s not just the beating sun that’s driving up the temperature. …most of our paved surfaces are dark, absorbing almost all of the sunlight that shines down on them. In a typical city, pavements account for 35 to 50 percent of surface area, …“It’s amazing how hot these pavements get and how we’ve let them cover most of our urban surfaces,” said Haley Gilbert, a researcher in the Heat Island Group of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). …To combat this problem, Berkeley Lab scientists have been studying “cool pavement” technologies. …cool pavements reflect as much as 30 to 50 percent of the sun’s energy, compared to only 5 percent for new asphalt  …The benefits of cool pavements extend beyond just cooling the local ambient air. They can also impact global warming and energy loads. Dark roofs and dark pavements both contribute to global warming by absorbing large amounts of solar energy stored in sunlight, then radiating the energy back into the atmosphere in the form of heat… Read the full article: http://newscenter.lbl.gov/feature-stories/2012/09/13/parking-lot-science/

2011 June 18.  Climate threatening key Yellowstone tree.  By Brandon Loomis, The Salt Lake Tribune.  Excerpt: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed with environmental petitioners that a high-elevation tree that is key to the Yellowstone ecosystem is threatened, advocates reported Monday, though the agency decided it lacks funds to offer it protection under the Endangered Species Act….
…The whitebark pine, whose seeds are a seasonally important food for grizzly bears, has suffered for a century from the introduction of a European blister rust disease and for the past decade from an attack by mountain pine beetles, which previously could not survive at their elevations. Unlike other pines, whitebarks have not developed defenses against beetles, and some researchers believe they will be nearly gone from Yellowstone within five years….

2011 January 21.  California Plants Put A Wrinkle in Climate Change Plans.  By Richard Harris, NPR News.  Excerpt: As the globe warms up, many plants and animals are moving uphill to keep their cool. Conservationists are anticipating much more of this as they make plans to help natural systems adapt to a warming planet. But a new study in Science has found that plants in northern California are bucking this uphill trend in preference for wetter, lower areas....
...This adds some pretty big wrinkles to conservation plans. For example: It's not always a good assumption that protecting areas up slope from plants will help protect their future habitat as the climate changes....

2010 July 14. Project's Fate May Predict the Future of Mining. By Erik Eckholm, The New York Times. Excerpt: …Federal officials are considering whether to veto mountaintop mining above a little Appalachian valley called Pigeonroost Hollow, a step that could be a turning point for one of the country’s most contentious environmental disputes.
…The Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama administration, in a break with President George W. Bush’s more coal-friendly approach, has threatened to halt or sharply scale back the project known as Spruce 1. The agency asserts that the project would irrevocably damage streams and wildlife and violate the Clean Water Act.
…Feelings run high in the counties right around the project area. “Spruce 1 is extremely important to all of southern West Virginia because if this permit is pulled back, every mine site is going to be vulnerable to having its permits pulled,” said James Milan, manager of Walker Machinery in Logan, which sells gargantuan Caterpillar equipment… The loss of jobs, Mr. Milan said, would have devastating effects on struggling communities.
…In documents issued in March, the E.P.A. said the project as approved would still smother seven miles of streamed… Filling in headwaters damages the web of life downstream, from aquatic insects to salamanders to fish, and temporary channels and rebuilt streams are no substitute, the agency said. The pulverized rock can release toxic levels of selenium and other pollutants, it noted...

2009 August 5. Forests Fall To Beetle Outbreak. By Ed Stoddard, Reuters. Excerpt: MEDICINE BOW NATIONAL FOREST, Wyoming - From the vantage point of an 80-foot (25 meter) tower rising above the trees, the Wyoming vista seems idyllic: snow-capped peaks in the distance give way to shimmering green spruce.
But this is a forest under siege. Among the green foliage of the healthy spruce are the orange-red needles of the sick and the dead, victims of a beetle infestation closely related to one that has already laid waste to millions of acres (hectares) of pine forest in North America.
...The plague has cost billions of dollars in lost timber and land values and may thwart efforts to combat climate change, as forests are major storing houses of carbon, the main greenhouse gas blamed for global warming.
The beetle outbreak, which has taken a lesser, but mounting, toll on spruce trees, could make it that much tougher to meet the ambitious target to reduce U.S. carbon emissions by 17 percent of 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050.
...In the terminology of trees and carbon, a healthy forest is a net "sink," with trees storing carbon as they grow. When they die and rot they "emit" carbon back into the atmosphere, and so a dead or dying forest becomes a "net source" of greenhouse gas, meaning it emits more carbon dioxide than it stores.
Colorado-based U.S. Forest Service scientist Mike Ryan said the net carbon storage in this patch of woods is about half of what it was three or four years ago. In another three or four years, he believes it will become a net source....
...In Colorado, aerial surveys show that from 1996 to 2008 Colorado lost almost 2.5 million acres (1 million hectares) of pine forest to the beetle outbreak, Wyoming 677,000 acres and South Dakota 354,000 acres.
Over the same period of time, the spruce beetle, which has also ravaged forests as far north as Alaska, took out 374,000 acres of spruce trees in Colorado and 340,000 in Wyoming.
That cumulative total of over 6 million acres (2.5 million hectares) is an area larger than Israel or South Africa's Kruger National Park.
...A forest can recover, but that can take decades.
"Most forests will recover the carbon they lose but if the next 50 to 100 years is important we may not have that much time. It's setting back carbon storage efforts," said Ryan....

2008 June 13. Have Desert Researchers Discovered a Hidden Loop in the Carbon Cycle? By Richard Stone, Science Magazine.Excerpt: URUMQI, CHINA--When Li Yan began measuring carbon dioxide (CO2) in western China's Gubantonggut Desert in 2005, he thought his equipment had malfunctioned. Li, a plant ecophysiologist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography in Urumqi, discovered that his plot was soaking up CO2 at night. His team ruled out the sparse vegetation as the CO2 sink. Li came to a surprising conclusion: The alkaline soil of Gubantonggut is socking away large quantities of CO2 in an inorganic form.
A CO2-gulping desert in a remote corner of China may not be an isolated phenomenon. Halfway around the world, researchers have found that Nevada's Mojave Desert, square meter for square meter, absorbs about the same amount of CO2 as some temperate forests. The two sets of findings suggest that deserts are unsung players in the global carbon cycle. "Deserts are a larger sink for carbon dioxide than had previously been assumed," says Lynn Fenstermaker, a remote sensing ecologist at the Desert Research Institute (DRI) in Las Vegas, Nevada, and a co-author of a paper on the Mojave findings published online last April in Global Change Biology.
The effect could be huge: About 35% of Earth's land surface, or 5.2 billion hectares, is desert and semiarid ecosystems. If the Mojave readings represent an average CO2 uptake, then deserts and semiarid regions may be absorbing up to 5.2 billion tons of carbon a year--roughly half the amount emitted globally by burning fossil fuels, says John "Jay" Arnone, an ecologist in DRI's Reno lab and a co-author of the Mojave paper. But others point out that CO2 fluxes are notoriously difficult to measure and that it is necessary to take readings in other arid and semiarid regions to determine whether the Mojave and Gubantonggut findings are representative or anomalous...

2007 August 23. Rule to Expand Mountaintop Coal Mining. By JOHN M. BRODER, NY Times. Excerpt: The Bush administration is set to issue a regulation on Friday that would enshrine the coal mining practice of mountaintop removal. The technique involves blasting off the tops of mountains and dumping the rubble into valleys and streams. It has been used in Appalachian coal country for 20 years under a cloud of legal and regulatory confusion. The new rule would allow the practice to continue and expand, providing only that mine operators minimize the debris and cause the least environmental harm, although those terms are not clearly defined and to some extent merely restate existing law. ...A spokesman for the National Mining Association, Luke Popovich, said that unless mine owners were allowed to dump mine waste in streams and valleys it would be impossible to operate in mountainous regions like West Virginia that hold some of the richest low-sulfur coal seams.
All mining generates huge volumes of waste, known as excess spoil or overburden, and it has to go somewhere. For years, it has been trucked away and dumped in remote hollows of Appalachia.
Environmental activists say the rule change will lead to accelerated pillage of vast tracts and the obliteration of hundreds of miles of streams in central Appalachia.
"This is a parting gift to the coal industry from this administration," said Joe Lovett, executive director of the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment in Lewisburg, W.Va. "What is at stake is the future of Appalachia. This is an attempt to make legal what has long been illegal."
Mr. Lovett said his group and allied environmental and community organizations would consider suing to block the new rule.
...Roughly half the coal in West Virginia is from mountaintop mining, which is generally cheaper, safer and more efficient than extraction from underground mines like the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah, which may have claimed the lives of nine miners and rescuers, and the Sago Mine in West Virginia, where 12 miners were killed last year.
...the stream buffer zone rule. First adopted in 1983, it forbids virtually all mining within 100 feet of a river or stream....

See also... http://www.ilovemountains.org/ for Google map of mountaintops that have been removed.

2006 December 6. NASA RESEARCH REVEALS CLIMATE WARMING REDUCES OCEAN FOOD SUPPLY. NASA Earth Observatory News. - In a NASA study, scientists have concluded that when Earth's climate warms, there is a reduction in the ocean's primary food supply.

2006 August 1. BEATING THE HEAT IN THE WORLD'S BIG CITIES - (NASA) Green roofs can mitigate urban heat islands and heat waves.

  Articles from 2006–present

ForgeFX Interactive 3D simulation by Prentice Hall - PLANT & ANIMAL CELLS - allows the user to inspect the structures of both plant and animal cells.


Losing Biodiversity